State House OK's compromise version of proposal to curtail teachers' collective bargaining

Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 5:17pm

The state House voted Thursday for a compromise version of the proposal to curtail collective bargaining by public school teachers, setting up a showdown with hard-line Senate Republicans in the last days of the legislative session.

The vote was 59-39, with a handful of moderate Republicans voting no, and the debate lasted four hours.

To end it, House leaders finally limited each representative’s time to speak, first to five minutes and then to only two minutes. When Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, went too long, they cut off his microphone as he still was talking.

“It’s a sad day when we’ve limited debate on such an important issue,” House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh complained. “Why does the majority fear debate? Why is there fear of debate on this issue?”

The House tabled an attempt by Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, to exempt Metro Nashville from the bill, perhaps the most controversial of this year’s session.

“Sixty percent of our teachers belong to a union because they choose to belong to one. This bill actually limits the rights of teachers to associate,” Gilmore told the House.

The House bill continues to allow contract negotiations for base pay and benefits. But it prohibits collective bargaining for merit pay and teacher assignments, among other issues. The Senate-passed bill is an outright repeal of the 1978 law allowing collective bargaining by teachers belonging to the Tennessee Education Association.

The two chambers will try to work out their differences as the legislature moves toward adjournment for the year in the next few days.

“I can tell you, teachers are scared,” said Rep. David Shephard, R-Dickson. “They’re confused and they’re scared, and they’re hurt.”

“The children are even upset about this,” agreed Rep. Kent Williams, I-Elizabethton.

Democrats cast the bill as an attack against teachers. They also contend Republicans are trying to bust the TEA because the union traditionally has allied with Democrats in election campaigns. The TEA represents 52,000 teachers.

“We are demonizing these teachers here,” Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, said. “They are people who have dedicated their lives to our children, your children.”

Rep. Mike McDonald, D-Portland, said teachers have used collective bargaining to negotiate not only for higher pay but for school supplies, lower student-teacher class ratios, safer science labs and classroom cleaning.

“School boards don’t volunteer these things. The teachers have to negotiate for them,” McDonald said. “They’ve had to go and fight with their school board for janitorial services for their classrooms.”

Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, accused the TEA of standing in the way of education reforms. She said no other Southeastern state allows collective bargaining by teachers.

“My mother was a first-grade teacher,” Maggart said. “I can assure every teacher in this great state that I would never do anything to hurt teachers. When people say that we’re doing that, that hurts me because I would never do anything to hurt my mother. The union is about self-interest. They are about promoting what’s best for their members. They are not about promoting what’s best for students.”

Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, criticized the TEA for supporting the National Education Association, which she denounced for favoring public education for the children of illegal immigrants.

“What does that have to do with the success of our children in the classroom?” she asked.

Rep. Jim Gotto, R-Nashville, said, “We are not trying to punish the teachers, absolutely not. For too long, we have allowed the TEA to make education a political battleground in this state. We need to make education about education.”

Rep. Mike Turner, D-Nashville, predicted that, in the upcoming negotiations with the House, senators will insist on an outright repeal of collective bargaining.

“Will you not accept what senators want to do with this bill?” Turner asked Maggart, the bill’s sponsor.

Maggart would promise only “to make this the best bill possible.”

8 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 5/19/11 at 4:20

The sponsors of this bill have no idea what they are talking about. Teachers need collective bargaining. We have to vote these idiots out of office, starting with Maggart. If her Mother was a teacher, she should tell her what the teachers had before Unions. Why can others have unions but not teachers. Oh I know, we are mostly women and the weakest unioin. Have you tried to take the firemen and police officers' unions away? Please firemen, police officers and other unions come to our side and help us fight these crazy people. GOP where are th jobs that you promised? I hope the Governor vetoes this bill. Does he have the backbone to do it?

By: govskeptic on 5/20/11 at 6:06

pswindle brings the same daily democrat argument to every political story in TCP
of throw the bums out! Actually a large majority feel that was accomplished in
our 2010 election. Teachers need respect, good one deserve better pay, bad
ones need to consider other professions. Mainly we have got to get this
very large and expensive enterprise of education back on track of educating a
group of students that have a tough economic world in front of them. School Boards and Administrators have too big a job to get done without having to constantly
have to be in discussion with the Union on every minute of the day, word spoken
by teachers, and placement of lunch boxes, to get anything else done.
Settle on the Senate bill and be done with this legislation!

By: Moonglow1 on 5/20/11 at 6:34

Moonglow1: the right to collectively bargain has been in place in TN since 1978 and has worked well. Why the frantic push to limit this right now in 2011. If you educate yourselves you will find that TN is not alone. This repeal of collective bargaining is happening in every state where tea pots are in control. They are the socialists. Teas are not listening to the people. They are curtailing your rights. They are not allowing democratic legislators to argue their point of view. They are against the democratic process. The real reason they want the union out is because unions have the money to advance democratic causes. Unions vote democrat and this repeal of the 1978 law is nothing more than an attempt to limit the voting rights of democrats. It is all about union funding of democratic candidates. My only criticism of the union and the teachers here is their lack of activism. They should contact the news media and expose this administration as has been done with Scott Walker. Expose the tea pots and their destructive agenda.

By: treehugger7 on 5/20/11 at 6:40

After all this, I hope the people are smart enough in the next election to throw these neanderthals out on their butts!

By: Moonglow1 on 5/20/11 at 6:52

Moonglow1: I hope so treehugger but as you know the voter ID bill passed recently further curtailing the right to vote. It is so important for the democrats to get their act together and get the message out so people understand more clearly how the tea pots are taking away our freedoms one by one.

By: d4deli on 5/20/11 at 10:43

As an MNPS teacher, I think Rep. Debra Maggart put some of my concern into words when she said: "The union is about self-interest. They are about promoting what’s best for their members. They are not about promoting what’s best for students.” I don't doubt that I would not have the salary and benefits that I have today, if it were not for the union. On the other hand, I have seen my local union become such an embarrassment to me by not being professional, and negotiating things that were more in the interest of the teachers, not students. Admittedly, the union has improved in recent years. Teaching is a business, but it is also a passion. The job in the inner city schools have become so stressful, that the pay I receive in no way compensates me. However, I would rather see an increase go into helping these children with severe behavior. I cannot teach a room for of students when I have 2-3 totally out of control, running around the room. God help me, if I were to lay a hand on them. I have to ask them to please sit down, which isn't happening because they aren't listening. It is beyond belief what some MNPS teachers have to put up with in the classroom. We teach, because we love children and/or love teaching. There is more and more pressure now to perform, have more accountabiltiy, bring test scores up. Basically, more is asked for, more is required, and as I look at some of my students, I realize the task is impossible. If you haven't already, thank a teacher today. There are bright success stories in the midst of the chaos. I can only hope that there are still people out there willing to go into the teaching profession and teach in public schools.

By: Radix on 5/20/11 at 11:31

Great news. Once the Marxists are removed from the equation we can afford to give the best teachers the pay they deserve. Way to stick to your guns Rep Maggart and company.

By: ididntdoit on 5/20/11 at 5:32

Radix, I think you believe everything you hear. This isn't going to give a good teacher more pay. It lets boards of education demand more work for the same pay. Did our state legislature pass any laws aimed at paying good teachers more money? You're crazy if you think teachers are suddenly going to get bonus pay. Where's it going to come from? Our county commission sent our school system's budget back 3 times to cut more from the same amount it operated on the year before. School boards have to operate within a budget Have you ever been to a meeting? The pot of money is the same. If you pay a good teacher more, then you're paying a not-so-good teacher less. That's a given, but isn't the real goal to have ALL good teachers? I'm all for paying good teachers what they deserve, but the money has to come from somewhere.